Gastro Obscura has an interesting article about the best food competitions. They don’t actually claim they are listing the best food competitions, just the most unusual. Take, for example, the St. George, South Carolina, World Grits Festival, where the contest is to see who can collect the most grits in their clothing by rolling around in a grits pit. (The record seems to be 66 pounds.) Then there’s the World Haggis Hurling Championship. No, that’s hurling as in throwing — as in hurling the discus, not what you were, understandably, thinking. And there are contests for throwing fruitcakes (naturally), raw eggs (messily), black puddings (bloodily), and custard pies (merrily). They don’t mention the Flora-Bama Legendary Interstate Mullet Toss, perhaps because it’s gotten so big that it can’t be classified as “unusual” any more. There are mashed potato wrestling contests at potato festivals, which don’t sounds as unusual as barbecue sauce wrestling in the Talladega Super Speedway at race time.
Most of the festivals don’t actually involve eating food. Some do, and those are of more interest, at least to me. The Marathon du Medoc includes 23 wine and food stations along the 26.2 mile course. They serve oysters, foie gras, cheese, and other goodies to the runners. It would be a great event if they moved the decimal point a notch to the left, to 2.62 miles.
At the opposite end of the culinary spectrum is the West Virginia Road Kill Cook-Off, which takes place at the Pocahantas County Fall Festival each year, and features the types of animals that often wind up as road kill — squirrels, possums, snakes, turtles, deer, groundhogs…. Think about the animals you’ve seen killed on the highway. Or don’t. They don’t serve actual road kill, I trust, just animals that seem attracted to the wheels of cars and trucks. It sounds interesting. We stayed at wonderful rustic cabins in Watoga State Park in Pocahantas County a few times with our friends John Farmer and Bonnie Lawrence back in the day. It’s beautiful country, and autumn is the time to go.
The big attraction, though, is the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off held annually in Bentonville, Arkansas, also home to the extraordinary Crystal Bridges Art Museum, and, not coincidentally, the world headquarters of Walmart, JB Hunt, and Tyson’s Foods. You can see that Bentonville is home to a whole lot of money and, it naturally follows, a high-end food scene. The Squirrel Cook Off must help the local folks from getting too far above their raising.
I don’t recall having eaten squirrel. The only mention of “squirrel” on the Blog is in connection with my grandmother’s recipe for Brunswick Stew — one of my most enduringly popular blog posts, perhaps because of its reference to my brother Jim having lived in a converted chicken coop as an infant.